Security forces tried to quell the scattered protests — in some cases by firing on demonstrators — but the unrest showed no sign of dissipating.
In an Afghan parliamentary session, lawmakers backed demonstrators’ demands that the offenders be tried in an Islamic court, applying early pressure on President Hamid Karzai to act swiftly and assertively in meting out punishment.
The parliament issued “a resolution strongly condemning this act and demanded punishment of the culprits,” said Nazeefa Zaki, a lawmaker representing Kabul. Some members of parliament said the Koran burning was intended as an insult to Afghans. Others urged security officials and soldiers to wage holy war against Americans, a sentiment commonly expressed at the demonstrations.
Meanwhile, Afghan and NATO officials began a joint investigation into the incident, which has prompted apologies from top U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington and has fueled concerns that the outrage could threaten stability during a critical time in the war.
Visit to detention center
NATO and Afghan officials visited the Parwan Detention Facility, adjacent to Bagram Airfield, where the incident occurred, to “examine the circumstances surrounding the disposal of religious materials there,” according to a news release from NATO-led forces.
“The purpose of the investigation is to discover the truth surrounding the events which resulted in this incident,” said Gen. John R. Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. “We are determined to ascertain the facts and take all actions necessary to ensure this never happens again.”
German Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, chief spokesman for the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, said officials were urgently trying to trying to determine how many Korans and other religious texts were burned, and why. Answers to those questions, he said, would be necessary to prevent the public response to the “grave incident” from spiraling further out of control.
Western officials said publicly Tuesday that the books were taken to the incinerator by accident. “I assure you . . . I promise you . . . this was NOT intentional in any way,” Allen said in a statement.
But a senior U.S. military official, who asked to remain anonymous, said Tuesday that the Korans were removed from the prison library because they had radical or anti-Western messages scrawled in them. Jacobson did not confirm that assertion, but his comments to reporters Wednesday came closer to placing blame on poorly advised military officials.